CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW TREASURER: Just thought I would make a few remarks about the current tax cut debate. To repeat very clearly, the Labor Party supports tax cuts coming into force on 1 July 2018. Indeed we would go further and have tax cuts almost twice as big in 2019. If the Government wants to see those tax cuts implemented, they should split the bill implementing their tax cuts scheme before the Senate. They should split that bill and allow the Parliament to vote on each of the three tranches of proposed tax cuts. 2018, which will sail through the Parliament, and the 2022 and 2024 reforms.
Our concerns about the 2024 tax cut in particular continue to mount. The Treasurer has refused to release the data relating to the year on year costs of the Government’s tax cut scheme. The Labor Party had to seek that information from the Parliamentary Budget Office. It shows that those tranche three tax cuts grow exponentially over time and have a very, very significant cost to the Budget bottom line. The Treasurer can’t tell you what the economy will be like in 2024, but he reckons he can tell you the economy can afford those tax cuts. It’s like asking somebody to buy a house in six years’ time, sign the contract now but they won’t tell you how much it will cost or what your income will be at that time. So this is about budget responsibility as well as fairness.
Yesterday before the Senate inquiry, one of Australia’s leading tax experts Miranda Stewart condemned the tranche three tax cuts as being a retrograde step. Of course we were also concerned about fairness and the impact on the progressivity of the tax system of those tax cuts. Again about budget responsibility, we saw again more evidence out today, more analysis showing that just a relatively slight change in a number of assumptions in the Budget could see the Budget tip back to deficit over the medium term.
So when it comes to responsibility, when it comes to fairness, the choice is clear. Pass the 2018 tax cuts by all means with the bipartisan support of the Labor Party. Let the Parliament do its job and fully analyse the 2022 tax cuts and the 2024 tax cuts. Both of those deserve the full analysis of the Parliament and Budget responsibility and fairness would indicate that both of those tranches need very close examination indeed.
Happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: The Budget was a month ago. Can the Labor Party indicate what its final position is going to be on phase two and phase three of those personal income tax cuts?
BOWEN: We have a Senate Inquiry underway, there will be more evidence presented. We only just got the latest figures yesterday. You’re right, the Budget was a month ago. How many times have I asked the Treasurer for figures? How many times has he point blank refused to provide them? We’ve had Senate Estimates last week and Treasury giving evidence that they knew the figures but were forbidden from releasing them. So of course it’s taking time to work this through because the Government refuses to be upfront not only to the Labor Party but to the Australian people.
Now can I point out to you that these are tax cuts come into force in 2022 and 2024. Sometime away. Not particularly urgent to be decided. Appropriate that the Parliament passes the 2018 tax cuts immediately and we take time to responsibly look through the other two tranches.
JOURNALIST: Does Australia need two sets of tax scales, one for men and one for women?
BOWEN: I know what you’re referring to there. The Labor Party makes no apologies, quite the contrary, for holding these tax cuts to the light and examining their implications for all Australians including women. We have a gender pay gap in Australia. It’s real. It’s substantial. Now of course you can’t fix it all through the tax system, but you need to examine whether the proposed changes are good or bad for people who are impacted by the gender pay gap. Now you asked whether we need a two tiered tax system for men and women, can I remind you just in passing that we do have one with the tampon tax which the Labor Party will take off. It’s a relevant point. But secondly, the Government is putting out all sorts of analysis about alleged modelling about how much their tax cuts impact on tradies and professionals and different groups. But all of a sudden because the Labor Party asked about the gender impact that’s somehow illegitimate. Well it is legitimate. Well it is one of the areas legitimately that should be considered by the Parliament when considering these tax cuts.
JOURNALIST: Well the tax system doesn’t discriminate between men and women but you’re saying it’s possible that it should?
BOWEN: No I’m pointing out that the independent analysis from the Parliamentary Budget Office shows that the overwhelming benefit of those tranche three tax cuts goes to men. That’s a statement of fact. Now you can say that that’s not relevant to your considerations, fair enough, I respect your right to make that assertion. I think there’s plenty of women who might say they wouldn’t mind knowing that information, thanks very much, when they consider their position on the issue. More information is hardly ever a problem.
JOURNALIST: Just quickly on another matter, Sean Rubinsztein-Dunlop has done a story today for the ABC that a Western Sydney teenager is soon to be deported to Lebanon for potential terror offences. There’s suggestions that he’s associated with a Sydney charity which is being investigated for possibly funding terrorism using money from the Commonwealth. Is it possible that Australian tax payers have funded Islamic State?
BOWEN: I haven’t seen that report. In fairness, I am not aware of the report, I am not aware of the evidence so it would be irresponsible for me to comment on it in any detail.
Okay, thanks very much.